The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably put a strain on the capability of district courts to move cases forward as planned. In the face of this reality, some district courts are encouraging attempts for mediation. However, in some instances, even scheduled in-person mediations were vacated to avoid the potential for exposure to COVID-19.
Northern District of California (San Francisco)
District Judge Richard Seeborg
St. Croix Surgical Systems, LLC v. Cardiva Medical, Inc. – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco sua sponte issued a General Order For All Pending Civil Cases Before Judge Richard Seeborg dated May 18, 2020, stating that due to the high uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic “it would seem to be an optimal time for the parties to initiate or renew an exploration of possible settlement or some other form of alternative dispute resolution.” The parties were instructed to meet and confer telephonically within 30 days of the date of the Order to discuss the prospect of case resolution and file a joint report regarding the status of the case. (Case No. 3:18-cv-04426; May 18, 2020).
The General Order For All Pending Civil Cases Before Judge Richard Seeborg, dated May 18, 2020, has also been docketed in the following patent cases before the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California:
- Arsus, LLC v. Tesla Motors, Inc., Case No. 3:20-cv-00313; May 18, 2020;
- CF Traverse LLC v. Amprius, Inc , Case No. 3:20-cv-00484; May 18, 2020;
- Power Density Solutions LLC v IBM Corporation, Case No. 3:19-cv-03710; May 18, 2020; and
- Gamevice, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. et al., Case No. 3:18-cv-01942; May 18, 2020.
Southern District of California (San Diego)
Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin
Sorensen v. Vision Plastics Mfg., Inc. d/b/a Snapo, et al. – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego sua sponte vacated an order scheduling a mandatory settlement conference, stating that the conference would be "futile" without the physical presence of the parties. (Case No. 3:19-cv-00738, presiding before District Judge Dana M. Sabraw; March 26, 2020).
District of Delaware (Wilmington)
Magistrate Judge Sherry R. Fallon
Ingevity Corp., et al. v. BASF Corp. – The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware in Wilmington sua sponte decided in an Oral Order to conduct the mediation scheduled for June 22, 2020 telephonically. The Court ordered that plaintiff’s counsel shall make arrangements for a dial-in number for all counsel, including the Judge, to use throughout the mediation process should the Judge wish to have discussions with all parties. In addition, Plaintiffs counsel was ordered to arrange for a separate line for their private discussions with the Judge and, likewise, defendant’s counsel was ordered to arrange for a separate line for their private discussions with the Judge. Previously, in a March 30, 2020 Order, the presiding Judge had extended the deadline for completing expert depositions to May 29, 2020 and further indicated that “[t]he parties should prepare to do the six expert depositions that are at issue by means other than in-person if governmental restrictions continue to make that necessary.” At that time the Court noted that if the current trial date of September 14, 2020 is not able to be maintained, “it may not be able to be rescheduled to a date certain for a long time, maybe until 2022.” (Case No. 1:18-cv-01391, presiding before District Judge Richard G. Andrews; March 30, 2020 and May 11, 2020).
Central District of Illinois (Springfield)
Magistrate Judge Tom Schanzle-Haskins
Apalone, Inc. v. Kranos Corp. d/b/a Schutt Sports – The U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Springfield cancelled the April 28, 2020 telephonic status conference in response to the court’s Amended General Order 20-01 entered on March 18, 2020 by Chief District Judge Sara Darrow regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the pending opposed motion to stay. The parties were directed to file a written joint statement “as to whether both parties want the court to set a mediation” with Magistrate Judge Schanzle-Haskins, and, if so, a telephonic scheduling conference will be set. (Case No. 3:19-cv-03027, presiding before District Judge Sue E. Myerscough; April 9, 2020).
Eastern District of Kentucky (Lexington)
Magistrate Judge Matthew A. Stinnett
Blazer v. Chrisman Mill Farms LLC – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Lexington set aside an order to show cause dealing with unresponsiveness of counsel regarding the scheduling of a settlement conference, after the parties finalized a time for the settlement conference. Although the Court agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has made court proceedings difficult to schedule, it noted that the need for “timely communication is imperative” and the Court “should not have [to] continuously track down counsel in order to schedule a settlement conference.” (Case No. 5:17-cv-00430, presiding before District Judge Robert E. Weir; June 4, 2020).
District of Minnesota (St. Paul)
Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung
Wilson, et al. v. Corning, Inc. – “In recognition of the current efforts locally and nationally to protect persons from unnecessary potential exposure to COVID-19,” the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota in St. Paul sua sponte ordered the parties’ in-person settlement conference scheduled for March 25, 2020, be conducted remotely. (Case No. 0:13-cv-00210, presiding before Senior District Judge Donovan W. Frank; March 17, 2020).
Eastern District of Texas (Marshall Division)
Chief District Judge J. Rodney Gilstrap
Eidos Display, LLC, et al. v. AU Optronics Corp., et al. – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas’s Marshall Division sua sponte vacated its March 16, 2020 Order requiring in-person mediation in Dallas, Texas, and ordered mediation via videoconference to be completed within seven (7) days, by March 27, 2020. “In light of rapidly evolving developments related to the COVID-19 virus… the Court is persuaded that an appropriate level of caution counsels against such travel at this time.” Notably, in the (now vacated) March 16, 2020 Order, which denied the parties’ original joint request for mediation via videoconference, Chief Judge J. Rodney Gilstrap wrote that “[m]ediation is one of those processes where direct human communication and interaction play a critical role and which do not effectively lend themselves to telephonic or remote video alternatives.” (Case No. 6:11-cv-00201; March 20, 2020).
Whirlpool Properties, Inc., et al. v. Asscon Int’l Co. Ltd., LLC, et al. – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas’s Marshall Division sua sponte assigned a mediator and further ordered the completion of mediation within 45 days of the order. (Case No. 2:19-cv-00151; March 27, 2020).
Eastern District of Virginia (Norfolk)
Magistrate Judge Robert J. Krask
Trans-Radial Solutions, LLC v. Burlington Medical, LLC, et al. – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk ordered that all lead counsel are required to appear for a settlement conference to be remotely held on July 6, 2020 at 9:30 am (EDT) via Zoomgov pursuant to the Temporary Emergency Provisions issued by the Eastern District of Virginia in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Case No. 2:18-cv-00656, presiding before District Judge Raymond A. Jackson; May 29, 2020 and June 4, 2020).